Once Halloween is over with, the candy has been disposed of, the costumes and spiders are all back in their bins in the garage, it becomes the season of anticipation for me. The weather is changing, the clocks are falling back, the evenings are dark, the mornings are damp, and turning the oven on seems like a good idea. We bought apples for a pie. I've started thinking about what small gifts would be most appreciated by the kids -- a rolling pin for Will? some fondant tools for Katie? (My kids love to bake -- big surprise!)
This year, there's far more anticipation than usual. My grandson is due in mid-December! Just a few years ago, I was pretty sure neither of my kids would be having children. Will, at 27, still seems dead-set against having a family. But Katie & PJ surprised us all, and I couldn't be more delighted. PJ is head and shoulders above the other young men she dated, and his capacity for parenting is already very visible. Katie turned into a mature, responsible adult practically overnight when she learned she was pregnant. Now we're in the last six weeks of waiting.
It's going to be a cold winter. We're wondering if it was wise to go with hard floors instead of carpet, and whether little Carter will have warm enough sleepers. Or whether we'll be able to turn up the thermostat a little and still manage the power bills. PJ is going to take a few weeks off work and be there for Katie, a tremendous blessing for her and a scary choice from the budget point of view. Sometimes it's a little difficult to honor our priorities and not become a slave to money or sell out our family for perceived security. We've always gotten by before, and thanks to supportive family, we will come out of the other end of this winter just fine, with an amazing new member of our family to show for it.
These are normal anticipations -- some traditions, some pleasures, some worries, and overall a deep gratitude for the comforts and joys in our lives, homes, and families. It's heartbreaking to know that these aren't the simple wishes of so many people. Katie was just telling me about a friend who is having a baby next week. She and her boyfriend live in their car. She wasn't even aware she was pregnant until six weeks ago. They both smoke, drink, do recreational drugs, and don't have any prospects for their future.
In Oregon, it's not OK for kids to be homeless. The system assumes that a foster home with a roof and food security is better than living with parents who can't provide those basics. I wonder if Katie's friend knows this? Probably not -- so many of the young people trying to live off the grid or outside of boring old traditional lifestyles have no idea what the consequences will be. And that's just the people that are choosing non-conformity. So many more families are willing and eager to work, have always fought to provide for their kids, and find themselves unable to accommodate a 50% or more jump in rent all of a sudden.
What would you do, if you couldn't come up with an extra $500 a month and were suddenly evicted? Would you have family or friends who would take you in? Would you be able to add another part-time job to your schedule to afford higher rent? Or would you find yourself in an old motor home on someone's unused garden patch, because parking it on public property is illegal? Would you live in the minivan? Make room for the kids to sleep in a make-shift bed while you tried to catch a little rest in the driver's seat? Would you have to wash as best you could in the Burger King restroom with paper towels, and then go off to work as if everything were under control? Would you seek help, or would you hide from authorities in order to keep your children with you?
I am so, so grateful that my daughter, her husband, and their baby are going to be here, secure, warm, and fed this winter. That my son and his girlfriend also have family support, choices, and all their needs met. There are no guarantees in this world, and the privileges of family and safety nets, for us, are very deeply appreciated.
I hope you and yours feel as much gratitude as I do in this season of anticipation. These are two of the emotions that make life rich and full.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.